End of furlough could impact nearly 13,000 but Suffolk Chamber remains positive
- Credit: PA
The Government's furlough scheme officially comes to an end today, a decision which may impact more than 10,000 people in Suffolk.
The latest data shows that as of July 31, 4% of Suffolk's workforce were still on furlough, around 12,900 people in total, while nationally there were 484,000 employers with 1.6 million staff on furlough.
The scheme, which was first introduced in April 2020, has reportedly helped protect more than 11 million jobs and at its peak 30% of the eligible population were using it.
Now, there is ongoing debate over whether Chancellor of the Exchequer Rishi Sunak has made the right decision, but Paul Simon, head of policy and communications at the Suffolk Chamber of Commerce, believes it is the right time for furlough to end.
“Suffolk’s recovery from the pandemic is being held back by a number of factors, including a lack of staff in some key sectors, such as hospitality, haulage and logistics and the land-based economy," said Mr Simon.
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"Even during the worst of the pandemic, our research showed that most employers in the county were struggling to fill vacancies. For that reason, Suffolk Chamber welcomes the ending of the furlough scheme, which has proven to be both effective and generous in protecting some workers from the associated economic shocks.
“We also recognise that it is not a simple equation of the 13,000 workers in question either returning to their old roles or simply slotting in to the many vacancies in the county. Retraining and other types of support might be needed in some cases and employers are more than ready to do their bit in terms of training and development.
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“But now is the time for everyone who can, to make their contribution to our fightback in building a more inclusive and sustainable local economy and contributing to the country’s prosperity. We need you and your talents.”
However, an economics professor from the University of Essex who specialises in employment trends has doubts about whether ending furlough will help the current labour shortage.
Carlos Carrillo-Tudela believes that as the scheme ends workers are more likely to remain attached to their current area of work rather than search for jobs elsewhere.
He said: "Our research has found out that individuals typically prefer to wait for job opportunities to arise in their own sectors before venturing further afield.
“This could put further upward pressure on the current labour shortage in the short-term.
“Therefore, thinking that furloughed individuals will help reduce the labour shortage could be misplaced.”
Independent Suffolk travel agency owner Bridget Keevil, is trying not worry about her current situation, despite Covid cases rising and travel restrictions still hampering the industry.
The Travel Stop boss said that furlough was "an absolute lifesaver" at the start of the pandemic, but thinks it should have developed to have been more industry specific as opposed to being a blanket scheme.
"We don't get paid until a passenger departs basically. A lot of the enquiries we are getting right now are for next year. Which is not putting anything in our bank account at the moment," said Mrs Keevil.
"We've still got all of our standard charges to pay and now the salaries on top of it and the bank loans now need to start being paid back. We've now got more going out than we ever had."
While some staff have left the industry in the past year, Mrs Keevil told this paper that some form of furlough for the travel industry throughout the winter could be vital.
"If we can get out of this ourselves we absolutely will do. It would have been nice to have a little more sector specific acknowledgement that we are having the worst time ever.
"We just need everybody to get confident and start to travel again
"I'm not a person that expects somebody else to pay my way but it would've been nice to trade our way out of this without having to do it with two hands behind our back - which is government policy that has caused that."